Friday, December 11, 2009

Hitch's TV rant - What's yours? It may be valuable - By Robert W. Walker

Discussion on a chat group that purports to have 4,000 subscribers turned to the question what mystery series would you like to see become a TV program? This got me to wondering what my friend Hitch—an avid reader—might answer if given a place to fully vent, so here is Hitch’s take on the question, a rather wonderful rant if you ask me…and it gave me an idea for a contest here. Here is the deal. You can win a place in my next book – your name gets to be one of my characters if you can provide the neatest, coolest pet peeve rant about TVs shortcomings. Use Hitch’s rant below to get your spleen spleening and your eyes popping Be aware that you are not asked to beat Hitch’s rant as that is highly unlikely, but the best other comment will win the contest. Hitch, pictured on the left, is not a contestant, only a standard. Here is Hitch on the subject of what’s wrong with TV programming and her suggestions for a better series.

Hi, Rob:

Vis-à-vis Bones: I know that – cute as David Boreanaz may be – every time I see an episode of Bones I think of what could have been, had they actually used Kathy Reich’s BOOKS and created the series there-from. I know I would have liked it a lot better than what they’ve put on the air. (Or am I the only person who finds the whole “poor-pitiful-genius-me-abandoned-by-my-folks-raised-by-wolves-so-I-have-no-social-skills-but-am-in-charge-of-the-“Jeffersonian”-laboratory-when-I’m-barely-out-of-puberty-and-isn’t-it-inexpicably-great-that-everyone-on-this-show-just-seems-to-think-I’m-amazingly-hot” thing just nauseating?) In fact, there are very few shows that I can stand to watch at all (I admit I’m a Fringe fan – love the cow), simply because they are just sooooooooooooo bad. I was channel surfing just a night or so ago, and – I kid thee not – I saw a scene in one of those CBS CSI shows in which a character says to a bunch of cops “everyone turn their cellphones off. This place has been used for a meth lab, so we can’t risk the slightest chance of a SPARK,” while they were entering a building with their guns drawn. I laughed so hard I actually had to run to the bathroom – which I suspect wasn’t quite the emotion the producers and writers intended to evoke.

Perhaps it is a function of age; maybe after you’ve seen the same plotline 100 times, it’s just intolerable due to redundancy, but I genuinely believe that shows are increasingly insipid, tailored toward a commensurately illiterate audience. (Sigh)…I’d still love to see Davenport , though. And Flowers.

Don’t get me started about freaking CASTLE. As I posted to the list some time back, I was not able to make it through the first episode, I thought it was utter dreck. White Collar? As someone else stated, it’s just It Takes A Thief without the wonderful Robert Wagner or Malachi Throne, and frankly not as interesting. The CSI’s, particularly the two “spin-offs” ( Miami is literally unwatchable) are horrible. The Forgotten? Fuhgeddaboudit. “Lie to Me?” At least it has whats-is-name, who is a wonderful actor, and makes the series, even though the premise is totally absurd. Criminal Minds? On a bobsled to obscurity without Patinkin, and now too soapy for words. House has turned into Soap Opera, which I absolutely despise. Hell, I am now waiting practically BREATHLESSLY for Jack Bauer and 24, which tells you how desperate I am, along with Burn Notice, which I really do love (can’t turn down anything with Bruce Campbell in it). Tried “V,” gave that up quickly. Gave up on Lost several seasons back. Hell, I can’t find ANYTHING I like on TV since they couldn’t get whats-is-name (David Milsch?) to continue writing Deadwood. I *am* watching “DaVinci’s Inquest” reruns on Sleuth, though; THAT was a decent series, wish it was still on.

(Sigh)…enough of a TV rant. What do you expect in a society in which everyone is willing to watch “reality TV” which is nothing more than 8th grade all over again? Popularity contests in which so-called “contestants” get “voted off the island” or “off the show” or whatever? I have never watched a single reality show and never will; I think it’s an abuse of the FREE airwaves. See, now I’m ranting again, I’ll shaddup NOW.

Bye, Hitch

AND so I got an earful, which I decided must be shared with all my acme friends; it was too good not to put to use. SO now what pet peeve about TV programming or a single program, especially mystery-drama drives you up the wall? Please leave word on what book series you’d like to see as a TV series? At present Hollywood is looking at my Instinct Series. Whether anything comes of it or not, like Kathy Reichs, I will probably lose all control of my characters and plots if anything comes of this admittedly shaky deal. Reichs is even a producer on Bones but I can’t imagine that she’s happy with the direction the show has gone in…wrong turn TV.

To win a place in my next book, leave a maliciously funny or spirited rant about what bothers you most about TV today? I will check back all week long to see what my net catches.

Rob Walker


Morgan Mandel said...

Hitch is totally funny. The trick is not to analyze the programs. If you do, you'll go crazy. There are too many things wrong with them.

What bugs me are the comedy shows that are just not funny. I wonder how producers can think that they are. I confess to not watching too much TV any more, except for mostly non-fiction shows, like Chicago Tonight, the GAC channel and old reruns of Seinfeld and other shows that really were funny.

Morgan Mandel

Anonymous said...

I think they need new writers. I agree with Morgan. So many of the comedies are just not funny. Where's Frazeir? Bring back the Golden Girls!

Rob said...

So right about comedies but also the drama shows are full of holes large enough to drive a Mac truck through; whole blogs are now devoted to taking these shows down in terms of forensics and science or rather psuedo do you spell psuedo?
Anyhow thanks for jumping in. You are in the running!

Kevin R. Tipple said...

I saw that CSI MIAMI monday night and had to run to the bathroom for the same reason.

The biggest thing that bugs me right now is the fact that all TV dads are stupid. Mind numbingly stupid while the rest of the family tolerates their stupidity and loves them for it anyway. I'd like to see a smart Dad for once on tv and not just in my bathroom mirror.

I'd also like to see that list you reference have some folks that don't feel the need to constantly trash those of us who write reviews on Amazon. The constant drumbeat of crap from some folks is getting really old. And speaking of crap---do we need a blow by blow description from nearly the same folks every month on what they read and reviewed with however many hats, flowers, magical roses, etc?

(so much to rant about, so few blood pressure pills)

Kelly Irvin said...

Dare I go against the grain here? It's fiction, people. If I like the characters (as I do on Numbers, for instance) I can put up with them going into a dangerous shootout with the SWAT team sans helmets so we know which one is broodingly handsome Rob Morrow. Gotta love those huge black SUVs, too. I want to know why the court shows have all those in-chamber hearings with the judges when most hearings happen in open court. The courtroom stuff is almost never right. At least with Ally McBeal it was funny. And there was that dancing baby. It's fiction. If I get a good story (it's rare I admit) and characters I like, I'll put up with some of the not-so-realistic stuff because I really don't care about it that much. Give me Goth Abby in the lab and Tony getting walloped on the head by Gibbs while the ME tells long-winded stories, and I'm content because they amuse me in a perverse sort of way. If I wanted reality, I'd watch reality TV (not). I haven't watched a comedy since M-A-S-H. P.S. I love Fringe too. Walter is my hero. Oops, gotta go, it's time almost time for Charlie and his math-loving FBI pals.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Of course it is fiction.

But, for me at least, when the holes become huge glaring neon signs the size of the Grand Cayon inked with stupidity, it gets a bit hard to suspend disbelief.

And yes, I do like NUMBERS and NCIS. There was so much wrong with the CSI MIAMI episode that it got unintentionally funny. You just had to see it to understand.

Hitch said...

If I can put in yet another $.02 (maybe by now it's up to a buck-fifty, but as Rob made free with my rant to him, he's stuck with my kibbitzing): I don't mind the whole "it's fiction, so suspend disbelief" thing; what I object to is having to suspend my brain cells in numbing solution so that when the show insults my intelligence I can resist the urge to perform piquerism upon my television. It's one thing to make characters likable, if not quite believable, ala Labby Abby; it is another to just flagrantly do endlessly stupid things (or blatantly incorrect things), or indulge in banal dialogue simply because the writers believe that the audience is too dimwitted to follow the 4th-grade plotline.

Kelly, with regard to some characters & shows being charismatic, and attracting audiences despite not having wonderful plotlines, e.g., NCIS and its spin-off, there is a fascinating proposition/theory in evolutionary psychology/biology referred to as "The Savannah Principle" (Satoshi Kanazawa, 2002, 2004), which compellingly makes the argument that our brains have not evolved commensurate with technology, so that they are "stuck" in the Pleistocene Epoch (about 10,000 years ago). The long and short of this (and the relevance) is that our brains are literally unable to distinguish between real people that we see often (our "pack") versus those people we see regularly on television, so that we internalize them as "our pack" or "our friends," even though our frontal lobes know that this is a load of bollocks. This is why we react, emotionally, to things that happen to our "imaginary friends" on TV, e.g., deaths. Anyone who is interested in this type of reading material about why people do what they do should try "Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters," Miller and Kanazawa, publ. 2007. GREAT book, I enjoyed the hell out of it.

Kevin, with regard to the Amazon-reviewer-bashing, it does seem a bit heavy lately, and I admit I feel a bit chagrined about having recently bitched about what I call amateur "plottus vomitus," which is when reviewers - primarily upon Amazon - feel that regurgitating the entire plot is a review, rather than crafting, well, an actual review. On the other hand, I just today, coincidentally, went to Amazon to read reviews about a particular book (being mentioned often on DL). Lo, there was a review indeed, by a certain someone who has reviewed about a bazillion books on Amazon. I decided, as this person had given the aforementioned book 5 stars, to see what this reviewer's other reviews were like...and - wait for it - s/he never met a book s/he didn't like. Nary ONE review was less than a 4- or 5-star. And several were for books that I know could only most kindly be called C+ books, the kind that are so mediocre that the best thing for them would be to sink quietly into obscurity. You cannot deny, Kevin, that Amazon Reviews, for the reader trying to navigate them as reliable guides, are very much "GIGO," as in, "Garbage In, Garbage Out." Or, "You Pays Your Money, You Takes Your Chances," or even "You get what you pay for." Not always...but often.

But back to the topic at hand - come on, you're all out there and Rob's counting on your vituperation - I know that there are innumerable shows that are SO bad that you are dying to spew. And we all are really dying to hear it!

Rob said...

Hitch is right! I need far more nasty remarks to satisfy my pruient interest in this. How about NBC devoting an entire hour to Tiger Wood's Vegas indescretions. You gotta wonder which ICON is next for the autopsy by media? But I gotta say that worse than that is any episode of CSI Miami with the main character, the red-head over the hill guy with the pasty complexion trying always to look svelt in sunglasses and taking the proper pose. One episode they had a helicopter searching the entire city of Miami and burbs for -- get this -- freshly laid sod -- GRASS. If they could only pinpoint recently laid sod, they would know where the killer's home would be. Now mind you, I lived in Daytona for fourteen years and I can attest to the fact that with all the new developments going up at every turn in Florida that Everybody and his sister was living in a house with freshly laid sod. This plotline was so bad it made me think it is time for CSI Sheboygan...a spoof in which first scene have CSI team enter a murder scene in a kitchen staring at leftover scrambled eggs in a frying pan and remarking on how no two people make scrambled eggs exactly the sanme way while stepping over the body.

Kelly Irvin said...

I understand what you're saying, Hitch, but personally I hate it when science gets applied to my viewing/reading habits. Takes all the fun out of it. It's like telling me that love is some chemical interaction in my brain. La-la-la-hands-over-my-ears-what's the-point-in-living-then? When I feel grief over the death of a character in a book, I think the author has done a good job of making me feel something for those characters, drawn me into a world so real I feel pain, I care. And I believe that happens with
TV too. I don't think I've forgiven Chris Carter yet for killing off the Lone Gunmen, as noble as their gesture was and as shlocky as their characters were. I never watch CSI Miami, never watched the NY one either, not because of bad plots, but because I didn't care about the characters. I tolerated the Vegas show primarily because of Grissom. Now he is gone . . . As for Bones, it's a girly-thing, but I still remember David Boraenz from the days when Buffy pined for him as he stood in the shadows looking all hunky, lonely and vulnerable. Hmmmm. Now there was a program that was funny even when they didn't intend to be. Or maybe they did. I mean when one sister says to the other: "I'm telling mom you slayed in front of me," I'm thinking campy was the intent. I think the same is true of Boreanz's show now, shooting at clowns, wearing a belt buckle that says cocky, etc. Quirky. Here's to the good, the bad, and the ugly. Certainly makes for good rants.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

No, I don't deny there are bad reviews/reviewers on Amazon, but that is also true of various other review sites. Everyone likes to bash Amazon, but it happens all over. Easily avoided by knowing your reviewer by looking at the body of work. You did that with their so called "number one reviewer" and have figured out she is worthless.

Rob said...

Truth be told TV is a monster that gobbles up every idea, stealing most from other sources, chews up said idea and plotline until it is pulp, swallows, regurgitates same, and now that the sameness is a putrid mess, it takes up its own vomit and swallows anew, dresses up the tired idea and plotline with a new set of outward appearance and clothing and asks us to swallow one more time. Even House as much as I loved it in its ealy days is based on Sherlock Holmes - at least the character is - not that that's a bad thing in and of itself but when did Holmes ever become soapy?
I get what you are saying, Kelly Irvin and others here, that we may do well never to look to closely at a TV program having any versmilitude but when a program purports to be police drama for instance and a year later becomes a silly or slick soap opera...When Bones began for instance it had something of Reich's intent in her books visible; that is all gone today. House, too, has become a sophmoric school boy chasing the cutest girl in class. That's depressing.

Margot Justes said...

We don't have cable or anything that resembles access to other than basic TV, but my daughter introduced me to The Closer and Burn Notice, both are funny, well written, dialog moves fast,it is a delight in an otherwise (at least for me) a vast sea of vapid reality TV, etc. I do love NCIS, again for the same reasons i stated above, well written and the ensemble cast is terrific.

Margot Justes

Hitch said...

Hi, Kelly:

Your comments about Boreanaz (Angel) and The Lone Gunmen (and Chris Carter) demonstrate, far more vividly than I could ever elucidate, the "Savannah Principle/Theory," and I thank you for it.

Margot: While I have not watched "The Closer" (I have a ridiculous bias against TNT), I too love "Burn Notice," as I think I mentioned in the original rant. Loved Deadwood; loved Rome. Still loving Fringe.

Kevin: I wasn't actually talking about Amazon's "No. 1 Reviewer," simply a voluble person with reviewarrhea who had reviewed a book in which I was interested, but the point is nearly identical. I'd also say, for the record, that I think the recent discussion on DL about whether reviewers "get it" is absurd (sorry, Rob); if enough people LIKE an author's work, the ones that don't "get it" won't count; if an ocean of people "don't get it," then the author should start to apportion blame a wee bit closer to home, IMHO.

Ta! Happy Holiday Shoppping, all!

Anonymous said...

Except for PBS, golf and football, I watch TV occasionally for entertainment. Except for NCIS, I don't find much entertainment. I'd gladly watch reruns of Frasier, The Rockford Files, Magnum PI, Ironside, Streets of San Francisco, 77 Sunset Strip, Route 66 and Rawhide.

As for Amazon reviews -- last night I read all my Amazon reviews going back to 2002 and thought they were pretty damn good. I don't claim to be a professional reviewer, just somebody who likes to recommend books I think are worth reading. So sue me ...

Pat Browning
Author of ABSINTHE OF MALICE, worth reading it you like small-town mysteries. Not worth reading is you're looking for shock and gore, vampires, zombies and serial nasties of almost any kind.

End of rant.

Rob said...

You may think, Hitch, that my quesion on DL re: reviewers who do not Get It is a nonsequitur but it has spawned quite a thread and frankly that was my intent...if you had not noticed lately DL has gotten downright boring, so I stirred the pot. I just love these people who quote someone else and sum of their lives in a quote. I just posted a fresh rant against readers I consideer Hack Readers which includes editors, agents, and reviewers who don't know when they are dealing with a helluva book but rather miss the whole point of it. I think it is valid to insist that someone who purports to be a professional as these folks always point out should at least be able to catch a curve ball thrown by a writer, that they are at the plate when it arrives....

Tina C. said...

Let me at 'er. Kate & Eight and OctoMom getting reality shows. What a waste of great time slots. Instead, fill it with a weekly whodunit or mystery series. Like Jessica Fletcher meets Desperate Housewives or Agatha Christie meets Bridget Jones. Or Country Inn, Dead & Brekfast, Deadwaiter and Deadly Act mini series. Yeah, I'd watch that!
Tina Czarnota

Rhobin said...

We have news as entertainment where opinion trumps fact, kids writing comedy (they must be, mustn't they? No adult can be that lame, can they?), reality TV shows that provide the ethical code for their fan base and for Congress, too, and no one wonders why fiction is losing ground to the unbelievable? Backed into a corner, where else did drama have to go?

When Survivor first came out I thought maybe the contestants were going to be dropped off on the island with nothing and actually have to find a way to survive. Ha! How dumb am I? I didn't anticipate just another game show.

Rob said...

I think we have a winner in Kelly Irvin as she ranted twice...but I have no say I enjoyed everyone's input and even bothered to check some of your url's and checked your website. Very interesting blog, too as well as links. So award goes to Kelly and thanks all for playing. I am told by Acme Mistress Morgan Mndel that we got something like 60 views and fifty were new visitors.

Kevin R. Tipple said...


Seriously, congrats, Kelly.